Clapper: 'Gratifying' to read Senate reports confirming early findings on Russian misinformation
Posted December 17, 2018 10:28 p.m. EST
(CNN) — Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Monday that it was "gratifying" to read two Senate Intelligence Committee reports on the scope of Russian misinformation campaigns, because they reiterated the intelligence community's 2017 findings.
The two reports, both commissioned by the committee, were based on troves of data -- much of it not disclosed publicly -- about the Russian campaign to influence the 2016 US presidential election that Facebook, Twitter and Google gave lawmakers. One concluded that trolls made over 40 phony Twitter accounts and websites purporting to represent news outlets or political groups, and the other found that the Internet Research Agency, a Russian government-linked troll group, was active on many social media platforms working to help Trump win.
When asked by CNN's John Berman on "Anderson Cooper 360" if he was surprised by the continued attacks on American elections, Clapper replied, "Absolutely not."
"It was very gratifying for me to read about these reports, because they simply reinforce or buttress what we said in our intelligence community assessment in January of 2017," he added.
The 2017 report found that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an "influence campaign" designed to hurt then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and help then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
"The first objective of the Russians was to sow doubt, discord and discontent in this country, and they've succeeded to it fairly well -- capitalizing and exploiting the polarization and divisiveness in this country," Clapper said.
"Secondarily, of course, was to do all they could to damage Hillary Clinton's candidacy and to help, when he became serious as the nominee, Donald Trump," he added.
Clapper added that Russian cyberattacks had continued since the 2016 election because of the "opportunity to drive a wedge among" Americans on a variety of hot-button issues, including racial tensions and gun rights.
"They had messages for everybody in the campaign, whether it was Black Lives Matter, white supremacists, gun control advocates, Second Amendment advocates," he said. "The Russians are always looking for issues to exploit to their advantage."